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Global conflicts strain humanitarian efforts

A Sunni boy in Baghdad stands in front of his family's belongings Keystone

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say it has had to step up its humanitarian efforts due to the intensification of many conflicts.

This content was published on May 24, 2007 - 17:15

In its annual report, the Swiss-run ICRC said on Thursday that it had boosted aid to deal with large-scale internal displacements caused by the unrest in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The displacements, according to ICRC president, Jakob Kellenberger, "caused immeasurable suffering and presented complex humanitarian challenges".

Kellenberger added that more robust efforts were needed to tackle and prevent internal displacement.

Even though many international institutions have said the number of armed conflicts around the globe is diminishing, Kellenberger believes human suffering has not decreased.

"These figures do not reflect the humanitarian consequences," he told swissinfo. "Even if the fighting is less intense, as it has become in Darfour and Somalia, the the main victims are still civilians."

Kellenberger said nations and parties involved in conflicts showed a glaring lack of respect for humanitarian law in 2006, despite the fact that it was a year in which the Geneva Conventions finally gained universal acceptance since the last remaining countries signed the treaties.

The ICRC has set as a top priority efforts to improve respect for the law by "reminding parties to armed conflicts of their obligations".

Conflict zones

Last year, the organisation worked in a wide variety of conflict zones.

Its operations ranged from rapid response in the case of sudden or worsening crises, such as those in Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Somalia, to ongoing aid in chronic emergencies, which occurred in Chad, the Central African Republic and Colombia.

Currently, the ICRC is stepping up relief efforts in Lebanon and Iraq. Kellenberger announced on Thursday that 11 trucks carrying aid were heading for the Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Nahr al-Bared, the scene of intense fighting in recent days.

And earlier this month, the ICRC said it would scale up its operations in Iraq to provide more aid for hundreds of thousands of people, and appealed for SFr35 million ($28.9 million) to fund the expansion of its relief work there.

Its budget for Iraq, where it says thousands of people are struggling to survive, now stands at more than SFr91 million for 2007.

The additional funds will be used to improve health care as well as provide clean water and sanitation services for the growing numbers of Iraqis being uprooted from their homes, particularly the elderly, the disabled, orphans and households headed by women.

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ICRC

Five Swiss citizens – Henry Dunant, Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Gustave Moynier, Louis Appia and Théodore Maunoir – founded the organisation in 1863.

It works mainly to protect the victims of armed conflict and internal violence by providing humanitarian assistance and conducting prisoner of war visits.

It monitors compliance of the Geneva Conventions, which outline the rules of law in times of war and occupation, including the treatment of prisoners of war. Switzerland is the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions.

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